2012 Preseason Top 30 Prospects

The SI Yanks won their fourth title in seven years in 2011. (Photo via The Staten Island Sun)

It was going to be next to impossible for the 2011 minor league season to feel like anything but a disappointment after all the success of 2010. Last year was more normal than anything else though, with a typical number of breakouts, steps back, and injuries. The Yankees still boast several high-end prospects and an absurd amount of depth, particularly on the mound. Not everyone is bound for stardom, but the Yankees have a plethora of useful players on the way to fill their roster and/or use in trades.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that ranking prospects is not a black-and-white exercise, there’s no right or wrong. It’s an inexact science, and everyone has their own personal philosophy. Some prefer pure upside while some place more value on probability, and everyone’s balancing act is different. I lean slightly towards probability, but I think you’re going to see clubs place a much greater emphasis on ceiling given the draft and international spending restrictions put in place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Premium talent will be harder to come buy, especially for a perennial contender like the Yankees.

I won’t argue (much) if you think two prospects ranked consecutively should be flip-flopped, in most cases we’d just be splitting hairs. The gap between the number one and number four prospect this year is pretty small, as is the gap between number five and number 15 prospect or so. All the guys after that are pretty interchangeable. Once again, it all comes down to preference. Like everyone else, I use rookie status to determine prospect eligibility. That means anyone with more than 130 at-bats or 50 IP in the big leagues is not eligible for the list, though I ignore the service time cutoff because that stuff is too difficult to track. Two top 30 guys from last year — Ivan Nova and Eduardo Nunez — graduated to the big leagues in 2011 while three others — Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman, and Hector Noesi — have since moved on to other clubs.

My past preseason lists can be found here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Can’t believe this is the sixth list at RAB already. Anyway, the ages listed are as of April 1st. Enjoy.

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More RAB fantasy leagues available

It seemed that interest died down for a couple of days, but last night and this morning I received a few emails with details for new leagues. So let’s get back down to this.

RAB Robertson with the Save; ID: 59737; pw: heirapparent

RAB [Name unknown]; ID: 58314; pw: hiphipjorge

Go here to sign up for these leagues.

If you have a league and emailed it to me, and I haven’t posted it, re-send. I’m a disorganized fellow and I’m sure I’ve lost a few of the emails.

Remember, if the leagues full up and you want to create a new one, just follow these steps:

1) Go here to create your league. We’re doing head-to-head leagues with 12 teams. The stats we prefer to use are in the original post.

2) Email me — josephp (at) riveraveblues (dot) com — and give me the league info, including the ID and password, so I can add it to this post.
3) Email me again when the league fills up.

That about covers it. Questions can go through email, through the tip box, or, if you don’t need an immediate response, in the comments.

Mailbag: Burnett, Kennedy, New CBA

So here it is, the final mailbag of the offseason. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in any links, questions, comments, etc.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Andrew and many others ask: If the Yankees do trade A.J. Burnett and eat $23m of the contract, does that $23m still get attached to the Yankees’ luxury tax figures over the next two years?

We’ve been getting this question a few times a day, but I have absolutely no idea how this stuff works. I have to think we’ll get a definitive answer if and when a trade does go down.

Let’s just say they do eat that $23M split evenly over the next two years, does his luxury tax hit become $11.5M ($23M divided by two)? Or does it become $14.5M ($23M + $16.5M annually for the first three years of his contract divided by five)? It would have to be the first way, right? Otherwise they’re paying luxury tax on money they’re not paying Burnett.

Ryan asks: Does the possible A.J. Burnett trade make the possibility of signing a big time free agent like Cole Hamels more likely now, with the subtraction of his salary on the payroll?

I suppose it does, but they’re not going to save a ton of money by trading Burnett. If they’re going to drop huge money on one player next year, it’ll be because they’ve replaced Nick Swisher on the cheap. His salary ($10.25M) plus Hiroki Kuroda‘s salary ($10M) is where your $20M a year player is coming from. Either that, or they Yankees will have to raise payroll further. Freeing up some money by trading Burnett will help, but it won’t be the only reason they go after Hamels or someone like that.

Jon asks: Any chance the Yankees take a Jon Lieber-esqe flier on either Scott Kazmir or Brandon Webb?

Well, the Lieber contract was two guaranteed years knowing that he’d miss the first year after Tommy John surgery. There’s no way in hell you can guarantee Kazmir or Webb anything, it’s been far too long since they were effective big league pitchers. Plus those guys both had serious shoulder problems, not just an elbow. Minor league contracts? Fine. Nothing more though, otherwise you’re just wasting time, roster spots, and money.

(REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

Joseph asks: IMO, while I can’t doubt his NL West success, I don’t believe [Ian Kennedy] would be anywhere near the pitcher he was last season if he was on the Yankees in the AL East. He doesn’t have blow-me-away stuff and in my opinion, a lot came together last year for him. So, what’s your take? I don’t dive too heavily into advance stats, so my analysis is lacking.

We don’t even have to bring up his stuff or his command or anything like that. This applies to every pitcher ever: moving from the NL West to the AL East will cause your performance to suffer. It doesn’t matter if you’re Ian Kennedy, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, or Pedro Martinez in his prime. It’s unavoidable. The lineups in the AL East are far better, there’s a DH instead of a pitcher batting, and the ballparks are much less forgiving. In terms of pitching environments, the AL East and NL West couldn’t be any more different.

Kennedy is no exception like I said, and in fact his numbers would probably take a bigger hit than most because he’s on the best team in the division and doesn’t have to face his own lineup. Since moving to Arizona, 145.2 of his 416 innings (35.0%) have come against the punchless Giants, Dodgers, and Padres. Replace those teams with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays, and he’d do worst. It’s just the way it is. IPK is a really, really good pitcher, but his performance would absolutely suffer if he was still in pinstripes.

Will asks: I feel as though big market/high payroll teams are being put in an disadvantaged spot by the draft process/new CBA. Now that there is a cap on the draft/international market I feel like it is unfair to winning teams. How else are those teams going to acquire talent besides free agency? Picking so late in the draft is already a disadvantage, now the new CBA and possible worldwide draft would really hurt teams like the Yanks. What do you think?

The spending restrictions put in place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement hurt everyone, but they hurt good teams the most. The more you win, the less you have to spend on top amateur talent without hurting themselves in the future (by forfeiting picks or future spending money per the new rules). Instead of being rewarded for winning, you’re punished. Good teams like the Yankees will be stuck signing free agents to improve their roster long-term, unless they just completely out-scout and out-player develop everyone else. It sucks, but at least the Yankees have more money to use on free agents than any other team.

Report: Yanks, Pirates nearing Burnett deal

Via George King, the Yankees are nearing a deal that would send A.J. Burnett to the Pirates in exchange for two marginal prospects. Pittsburgh would absorb $13-15M of the $33M left on the right-hander’s contract. “It will happen this weekend,” said King’s source. “Probably Saturday.”

Pitchers and catchers report on Sunday, and the Yankees probably don’t want this to drag on into camp. The commissioner’s office will need to approve the deal because more than $1M is changing hands, but that’s considered nothing more than a formality.

Open Thread: 2/16 Camp Notes

Happy Thursday, here’s the latest from Tampa…

  • “His delivery’s really good right now. He’s way ahead of schedule,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild about Ivan Nova. “There’s a quiet confidence to him.” Rothschild also said the rotation order behind CC Sabathia has not been determined, but that’s not surprising. (Erik Boland, Anthony McCarron & Dan Barbarisi)
  • Derek Jeter, Ramiro Pena, Frankie Cervelli, and Curtis Granderson were among those who took batting practice with hitting coach Kevin Long and Charlie Hayes in attendance. (Boland, Barbarisi & McCarron)
  • Hayes is in camp because his son threw for the Yankees brass today. Tyree Hayes, 23, spent the last six years in the Rays and Reds organizations, pitching to a 4.11 ERA with 6.6 K/9 (16.9 K%) and 3.4 BB/9 (8.7 BB%) in 341.2 IP. He never made it out of A-ball though. (McCarron)
  • Cervelli took some ground balls at third base, which is as much about shaking off rust as it is working towards becoming a legitimate option at the position. He’s already the emergency infielder, we know that. (McCarron)
  • Boone Logan showed up and did some work with strength and conditioning coach Dana Cavalea. (McCarron & Boland)

Also, condolences to Gary Carter’s family. The Hall of Fame backstop passed away at age 57 today following a bout with cancer. You couldn’t be a baseball loving kid in New York in the late-80’s without knowing who The Kid was. For shame.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Rangers, Islanders, and Nets are all playing, but talk about whatever’s on your mind. enjoy.

(Heart-breaking video of Jesus Montero‘s recent batting practice session via Geoff Baker)

Rafael DePaula Non-Update: Still No Visa

Via Ben Badler, soon-to-be 21-year-old right-hander Rafael DePaula is still in the Dominican Republic waiting for a visa, which would make his $500k contract with the Yankees become official. The two sides agreed to terms in November of 2010, but DePaula has been stuck in visa limbo because he’d previously lied about his age and identity. He spent last year working out at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic, and I suspect he’ll do the same this summer if he doesn’t get a visa anytime soon. DePaula has a great arm and could still become one of the team’s better pitching prospects, but he’s lost a lot of development time with all these delays.

Is Mike Gonzalez an inevitability?

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

From most accounts, the Yankees are about to trim a bit from the payroll. Whether the Yankees ship A.J. Burnett to the Pirates or to a mystery team, it appears that he’s headed somewhere. Their main reward will come in the form of salary relief; Jon Heyman’s latest has the Yankees saving $13 million between this year and next, effectively netting them an extra $6.5 million this season.

Chances are they’ll put that money to use quickly. With the Burnett deal behind them they could snap up Raul Ibanez or Johnny Damon (or even Vlad Guerrero), and then perhaps Eric Chavez. That will probably cost them in the neighborhood of $3 million. The smart best is that they save the rest of the money for a mid-season acquisition. It might not seem like a lot, but $3 million gets you a $6 to $7 million per-year player in July.

Still, the Yankees could look to make one more move with that saved money. For years they’ve pursued lefty relievers on the free agent market. That has left them with some sub-optimal contracts. Damaso Marte threw just 21 regular season innings during his three-year, $12 million deal. The Yankees will pay Pedro Feliciano $4 million this year to throw zero pitches, after doing the same last year. That leaves Boone Logan as their only left option in the pen. Might the Yankees use those freshly available dollars to ink the one prominent lefty still available?

The Yankees having interest in Mike Gonzalez would be nothing new. Five years ago they were interested in the then-Pirates closer, and were rumored to be offering Melky Cabrera in exchange for him. That never materialized, though, and the Pirates sent Gonzalez to the Braves. After just 17 innings Gonzalez tore his UCL and missed the rest of the 2007 season, followed by a good portion of the 2008 season. He came back strong in 2009, sharing closer duties with Rafael Soriano, before both hit free agency.

Gonzalez’s deal with the Orioles didn’t go as smoothly as either party planned. Gonzalez got hurt in 2010 and was limited to just 24.2 innings, in which he produced a 4.01 ERA. His peripherals were a bit better, particularly his 11.31 K/9. But he walked far, far too many batters, which has been a problem for him his entire career. Last year he managed to stay healthy, but was downright terrible at times. That came mostly at the beginning, however. As the season rolled along he did show signs of improvement — he walked zero of the 33 batters he faced in August, while striking out nearly half of them. His playoff run, the first of his career, was also halfway decent, excepting the lone home run he surrendered.

There is a chance that Gonzalez, 34, can still be an effective reliever. He’s done it throughout his career, and he did round into shape as the 2011 season wore on. That he did his best work when pitching for a contender could also bode well for his performance as a Yankee. Furthermore, he could fit in the bullpen as mostly a LOOGY. While he walked 21 of the 230 batters he faced last year, only six of those were lefties. Overall he walked only 5.5 percent of lefties, while striking out nearly a quarter of them. A quick look at his splits page shows that he still has something in the tank when facing same-handed pitchers. His continued ability to strike out righties furthers his value, since he can conceivably face two lefties with a righty sandwiched in the middle.

Still, it’s tough to imagine that signing Gonzalez constitutes the best use of the Yankees’ saved dollars. They already have five of seven bullpen spots filed: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, and Cory Wade. They also have minor league invitee Hideki Okajima, who probably has an inside track to that second lefty spot. Beyond him, there are a couple of players on the 40-man who could win a bullpen spot: George Kontos and D.J. Mitchell. Using one of these guys might be a necessity, since the team needs to retain some level of flexibility; Joba Chamberlain returns in June and will need a bullpen spot as well.

Given the Yankees’ M.O. in recent years, it’s in some ways easy to see them signing Gonzalez. He’s still there for the taking, with little serious interest in his services. He throws with his left hand, can handle same-handed pitchers well, and isn’t a total disaster against righties. But given the Yankees’ current roster structure, which includes hosting two Rule 5 picks on the 40-man, they might be better off pocketing those Burnett dollars with an eye towards the deadline. Right now $3 mil might not buy a lot, but at the deadline dollars stretch a little further.